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Hersman to step down as NTSB chair, assume NSC's top post

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) yesterday announced that Deborah Hersman will step down as chairman, effective April 25. Vice Chairman Christopher Hart will begin serving as acting chairman upon her departure.

NTSB's chair since 2009, Hersman will become president and chief executive officer of the National Safety Council (NSC), a nonprofit organization chartered by Congress in 1913 that aims to prevent injuries and fatalities in workplaces, homes and communities via research, education and advocacy.

Hersman joined the NTSB in 2004. Her third term as chair was set to expire on Oct. 15, 2015, and her additional five-year term as a NTSB member was scheduled to expire on Dec. 31, 2018. She previously was a senior professional staff member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and served as staff director and senior legislative aide to former U.S. Rep. Bob Wise (D-W.Va.).

During her chairmanship, Hersman focused on accountability, integrity and transparency. She elevated the board's stature with external stakeholders and the public by tripling the number of investigative hearings and public events hosted each year, completing many major accident investigations within 12 months, and revamping the agency’s public and media presence through strategic use of digital communications, NTSB officials said in a blog posted yesterday. Her efforts also enhanced the board’s international relationships, increased advocacy efforts with key stakeholders in government and industry, and elevated the treatment of families of victims of transportation accidents, they said.

"I have had the privilege of working with Debbie at the NTSB for nearly five years and know first-hand how her efforts have improved transportation safety for the traveling public," said Hart in a press release. "As one of the nation's most visionary advocates for safety, she has focused our attention and actions on addressing a variety of transportation safety issues."

Looking back at her 10 years at the NTSB, Hersman has seen the landscape of transportation safety improve before her eyes, she said in the blog.

"Today, training standards for transportation professionals are more rigorous, federal safety oversight exists for the rail transit industry, [and] work schedules for pilots, locomotive engineers and truck drivers allow for more rest opportunities," said Hersman. "These changes and so many other safety improvements are the result of industry, labor, advocates, regulators and legislators all working in their particular spheres of influence to make travel safer for people that don’t always appreciate the risks they face."

Now, Hersman is preparing to take on another challenge as NSC's leader.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead an organization dedicated to saving lives and preventing injuries,” she said in a press release issued by the NSC. “The council's vision of ‘making our world safer’ has the potential to improve every workplace, every community and the way we travel every day.”

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/12/2014